Archives for the month of: October, 2011

Hallowe’en is upon us and there are lots of exciting and spooky things happening in dark and shadowy castles across the land.

If you live in Scotland, click on the Visit Scotland website to see a full listing of all the ghost trails, pumpkin festivals and other Halloween events planned across the land.

If you live in England, there are all sorts of ghoulish goings-on, thanks to English Heritage. This year Halloween falls in the school half-term holiday, so there are lots of activities organised for families. Brave the Tunnel of Terror at Dover Castle, or have a creepy family sleepover at Kenilworth Castle. Click on the English Heritage link above to see a full list of all the events with times and prices.

Maybe you’re planning a family Hallowe’en party of your own. Have you decided what kind of costume you will wear this year? Last year my son wore a giant banana costume, and this year he is going to wear a big, hairy wig and beard to be… a big, hairy bearded guy.

When I was growing up in Canada, the last day in October was usually freezing, and we used to go around the neighbourhood trick-or-treating in the snow! That meant our costumes had to be warm. Forget about being a ballerina or a fairy. You were much better going as a ghost, with a big sheet over you and lots of thick clothes underneath! Or a mummy wrapped in lots and lots of bandages!

Here are some Halloween goodies that I thought looked gruesome and tasty:

These are called Apple Bites, with teeth made of sliced almonds!

Don’t these Carrot Fingers look real? I’m sure they’d make me jump!

These are called Night of the Living Bread (as they’re made with pita pockets).

And I love this Hairy Daddy Longlegs!


Recently my daughter Anna was invited to the grand opening of Jacqueline Wilson’s exhibition, Daydreams and Diaries at Seven Stories in Newcastle. We took two trains and a taxi to get there, and were very impressed by the amazing Seven Stories building which is a converted Victorian mill right next to the river.

Inside there are seven levels with a lovely café, a big bookshop, a library, storytelling areas and lots of wonderful displays. This special centre for children’s books has a collection of work from many famous writers and illustrators, and they have lots of great author events all through the year.

This was a very exciting day for us because Anna’s artwork was on display in the exhibition! Naturally I had to take pictures of everything!

There was a lovely tea all set out for us, with elegant cake stands, delicious sandwiches and even sweets in glasses you could just nibble to your heart’s content! Among the drinks on offer was pink milk for the children. I used to love that when I was little, and I must say I was tempted…

The exhibition tells the whole story of Jacqueline Wilson’s life, from her childhood when she wrote her first stories in little notebooks to her huge success as a children’s author today.

This is what you see when you first enter the exhibition. It looks like every book Jacqueline has ever written is covering the floor. We love the illustrations Nick Sharratt does for Jacqueline’s books, so it was great fun to examine every one (and Anna has read them all!) She took this picture, so you can see she wore her special shoes for the occasion.

The wall devoted to Jacqueline’s fans is covered from top to bottom with letters she has received over the years. These come from children all over the world who love her books. They send her drawings, story ideas and sometimes even gifts! Two of these (soft toys her fans have made for her) are in special cases mounted on the wall.

Anna feels really lucky to have several of her hand-drawn cards to Jacqueline on the wall. One is in its own case, and below it in another case is the card Jacqueline wrote back. (If you look closely you can also see the little lemur we made for Jacqueline for her birthday.) We are delighted that Anna’s work will be on display for a whole year, and then it might go on tour!

The exhibition is excellent and really worth a visit. You can see Jacqueline’s toys and favourite books when she was little, look at paintings that she once had on her bedroom wall, learn all about her first job writing for a magazine, and look at all sorts of amazing illustrations by Nick Sharratt.

You can also imagine what it would be like to be Tracy Beaker! Here is one of the rooms in the exhibition, a recreation of Tracy Beaker’s dumping ground where you can watch Tracy on the TV.

Anna might like to be a writer and illustrator one day, and Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt are both huge inspirations for her. We’d like to say many thanks to the Seven Stories team for inviting Anna (and her mum) to such an amazing event!

Today another wonderful package came in the post. Miss Chalmers, whose P2 class wrote and illustrated the amazing I Only Eat the Colour Green, has sent me another collection of excellent work from her class.

After I received their book, I felt I really ought to send a thank-you. I decided they might enjoy a Green Book Bag which has fruit-shaped sponges for painting, lots of classroom activities (like a word search and drawing ideas), a matching game and a letter from the Countess inviting them to tea!

Here is what came back to me in the post today:

Dear Lynne,

Thank you so much for the bag of activities you sent the class. It caused much excitement when it arrived in the class one lunch time. The children are delighted with seeing their book online and are convinced they are now famous. They have been reading their book to all the other classes around the school and have read it to the parents at an open morning. They are following the comments online closely too.

Thanks again,

Miss Chalmers

With Miss Chalmers’ letter came 26 thank-you cards with beautiful drawings on them, one from each child in the class! There were pictures of Cammy who only eats green things, Marlene who never eats green things, Miss Chalmers, and even a stripy snake! And two girls from the class (Alesha and Alisha) decided to put a pink penguin on their cards. They are all so amazing that I am going to show you every one:

I continue to be so impressed by the work this class produces! I hope you’ll add a comment to let them know what you think.

Because this is Children’s Book Week, I want to show you some of the books I have enjoyed over the years with my children. Even though they are teenagers now, we still have a huge collection of picture books that I couldn’t possibly part with! Here are some of the best ones:

Bathtime Boots by Satoshi Kitamura is a board book we used to love for its colourful and wonky illustrations. All the tables and floors are crooked, and Boots the cat has big scared eyes as he searches for a place to hide. He does not want to take a bath! We have several books by Satoshi Kitamura and his quirky style is fantastic!

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert is another beautifully illustrated book. I’m sort of cheating here because I never read this one with my kids. I discovered the amazing work of American artist Lois Ehlert quite recently, so I put this alphabet book in my list just because I love it! She makes those fabulous fruits and vegetables by painting paper with coloured inks and then cutting and pasting them on a white background. Delicious!

Willy and Hugh by Anthony Browne is one of my all-time favourite books. We had a copy of it when my kids were small and read it a lot. Then it got lost, and even though the kids are big now, I just had to get another copy! Willy is such a great character, and we love the way he and Hugh help each other out of sticky situations. I used to think Anthony Browne was an American writer because my friend Elizabeth (who makes beautiful bracelets) sent me a signed copy of Willy Dreams from America. Actually he is British and was the Children’s Laureate a few years ago.

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson is an American book, all about a man called Henry David Thoreau who loved the outdoors and believed in living very simply. This story is about two friends who travel to Fitchburg. Henry decides to walk and enjoy nature on the way, while his friend spends ages doing odd jobs to earn enough money to take a train. D.B. Johnson‘s illustrations are very special, and we like the way he has made Henry into a bear.

When I was little my favourite writer was Dr. Seuss. The silly rhyming stories were great for learning to read, and because of the rhyme you could soon learn them off by heart. We have almost every Dr. Seuss book there is, and the one I enjoyed reading to my kids the most was How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I just loved reading lines like, “Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two” and “Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant, Around the whole room, and he took every present!” It is thanks to Dr. Seuss that I love to write rhyming stories myself.

My kids have grown up in Scotland, and we discovered a great series of books by Aileen Paterson called the Maisie Books. Maisie is a clever little kitten who gets in trouble for speaking her mind. There are lots and lots of Maisie books, and the one I have chosen to show you is Maisie Goes to School. It was a great way for my daughter to learn what it would be like at school before she got there! We have also travelled to the Amazon, Japan, Paris and New York with Maisie, and she always has fantastic adventures.

The last picture book I want to show you is Blue Rabbit and Friends by Chris Wormell. As you can see, the illustrations are very striking, with bold colour and strong black outlines. The story is very funny, with all the friends living in houses that are completely wrong for them. Bear lives in a pool of water, rabbit lives in a dark cave, goose lives in a kennel and dog has a burrow. They are all unhappy in their homes, and it takes them a while to figure out that they need to swap! But instead of moving into the burrow, blue rabbit sets off on his bicycle for an adventure. Chris Wormell is a very talented artist who does lots of different types of work (not just children’s books). His style is very distinctive and I just love it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my favourite picture books. Let me know which books are special to you!